Rugby Union is No One’s Friend

So my good friend and colleague Al McClintock has written a glowing article about his love for rugby union, which he’s described as the “perfect marriage of brains and brawn.”

Well, Mr McClintock has just been well and truly swept up in the generic euphoria that comes with an international sporting competition that takes place every four years.

Rugby union will capture our attention for the next month, and rightfully so. It’s a global game, and as with any World Cup, it will generate significant interest from all sorts of diehards and bandwagoners from here to Timbuktu.

Already, we have seen wonderful underdog stories – such as Japan’s heroic victory over the Springboks (by the way, they’re nicknamed the Cherry Blossoms for Christ’s sakes! How fucking endearing is that?!) – and surprise twists, like England’s failure to beat Wales at home, thus setting up a mouthwatering group fixture this Saturday against Australia.

And that’s the kind of fairytale shit that screenplays are built on. But really, this is just part and parcel of any World Cup, regardless of the sport.

Look deeper into the sport of rugby, and what do you see? You see a sport which has, over a sustained period of time, given the finger to its fans and players alike.

You see a sport run by luddites, for luddites. A sport that has successfully strived to position itself as the game played by gentlemen; a code constantly seeking the high ground. A sport that is run by bankers.

You see a sport where class matters.  At the very beginning, the rugby union authorities turned down their noses at the working class Northerners, who wanted some financial reimbursement for giving their time to play on Saturdays. This lack of empathy led to the rugby union/rugby league split, all due to the fact that union types could not accommodate those who they perceived to be a class below them.

You see a sport that has failed to evolve its game play to be audience-friendly. A game where a referee can decide a match. A game where a team can rack up nine penalty goals and three field goals and still conquer a more enterprising opponent who scored five converted tries.

Rugby union has fucked you, Al McClintock, over for years. Rugby union doesn’t care about you; it cares about the corporate dollar. It cares about big business. It cares about its image.

And while I will watch (with considerable interest) the outcome of this World Cup – and support the Wallabies full-heartedly all the way, mind you – I will never give my heart over to rugby union.

Because rugby union is, and has always been, a twat.

By Dave Edwards

Hello Rugby, My Old Friend

Often in life we become enamoured with one thing or another. It might be a person, a band or a particular author, a TV show, ideology or yes, even a sport.

I’ve had more dalliances with different sports than I care to mention. I once had a joyous, rollicking good fling with the NBA – long before Dellymania gripped the country – and indeed, by the time Matthew Dellavedova began serving the world cold Curry, the NBA had little to entice me. It possessed all the allure of an ex-lover you would rather never see again, not because of any residual hard feelings or fears of awkwardness, but purely because you can’t be bothered.

Rugby League has achieved more longevity in commanding my attention than most, but I remain unsure if I truly love it. I mean, how could you? It is like that self-destructive paramour who can make you climax like no other, but afterwards you immediately feel shame and guilt. As if, somehow, despite the fact it is you who is hog-tied with their underpants jammed down your throat, it is you who has taken advantage of them.

But Rugby Union, with all its beautiful intricacies and hands in the ruck, Rugby Union I truly get … And I feel like Rugby Union gets me.

With the early stages of the World Cup gently humming away I am beginning to understand why the Buddhists hit gongs. The Rugby World Cup is my gong and David Pocock may very well be the mallet. There is a gentle vibration inside me, brought on by the excitement of the event, that brings a little more lustre to my every day life. My morning coffee tastes that little bit better, people on the street seem a little friendlier and even rain brings with it a calming, nostalgic air, as it gently pitter-patters upon my crown.

I love Rugby Union and all its obscure rules. I love that Japan beat South Africa. I love the fact that France are playing terribly, but you just know at any stage they could explode like an incandescent firework and light up the tournament. Heck, I’m even starting to love the scrums!

League fans criticise Union because the players kick it too much, that there are too many stoppages for set-pieces, that the rules are too complicated; but that is like criticising Test cricket for not being Twenty20, yes the fundamentals are the same, yet they are very different games.

In Rugby Union you have a perfect marriage of brain and brawn. Big hits and subtle strategy. In League, when a player executes a strong tackle on an opponent, they immediately get up and begin lording over them. There is no time for that in Union. One must pop immediately to their feet and try force a turnover. Ego and pomp have no place in the last true sporting refuge for gentlemen.

I have a special feeling about this bunch of Wallabies too. There is an air of destiny about them, like there was with the All Black four years ago. All the chaos that made little sense, as it seemingly unravelled the very lives of those it involved, has come together perfectly to create this one, wonderful occurrence.

If I knew how a star is born, I may liken it to that, but I don’t. I am but a simple man, who loves a complicated game.

By Alasdair McClintock

Jarryd Hayne Is Just The Tonic In These Troubled Times

Australia is going to hell in a handbasket.

Last night, our prime minister Tony Abbott was knifed by the urbane sophisticate Malcolm Turnbull. This will be the fifth prime minister in five years for Australia, a safe, prosperous nation girt by sea and rich in natural resources.

Last month, our Australian cricket team was humiliated in the Ashes. We went there cocksure and ready to pump the English 5-0, only to return decimated and leaderless. Now, we’re sending a bunch of unknowns off to Bangladesh, where success is no longer assured.

Australia is at risk of becoming a running joke. Politically we are a shambles. Our cricket team – once something to be proud of – is weak. What is there to be proud of, any more?

Australia needed a singular saviour to restore our national pride. We’ve now got it, in the form of an NFL punt returner. When he makes a break, we make a break. When he steps a bloke, we step a bloke. When he pancakes a bloke, we pancake a bloke. Australia is relevant again. We’re making the headlines for the right reasons.

Sure, it’s a cultural cringe, to evaluate our self-worth by how we are perceived in the eyes of others, but really, how else we know we exist? We need to let the world know that we are capable of dominating other countries’ national sports. This will never change, and nor should it.

Jarryd Hayne is just the tonic in these troubled times.

By Dave Edwards